I love supers. I sit and I watch them and I get caught up in all the awesome and I wish I could do all those cool supernatural things too - it's like standing on the edge of a tall building and feeling sick with the height and wishing you could jump off and fly, at the same time. But when the movie is done and I get up and go away, and people ask me if I enjoyed the film, my gut answer is always "No." And I don't think it's because of plot or characters, or anything like that. It is more fundamental and visceral than that, and consequently far harder to explain. But I think that I have finally cobbled together some sensible explanation for why I am, at bottom, always disappointed by the superhero movies.
You may be inclined to either mindlessly agree, or kick back and say that is the statement of a picky Christian trying to cram Christianity into everything. Well, try not to do either. The modern superhero films are almost purely humanistic: these people are genetically manufactured with highly squiffy ethics that we quickly brush under the rug, they are always looked upon as sub-human even while possessing super-human powers, and they are almost universally created, and looked upon, as weapons. Nowhere in the superhero universe is there accountability with a spiritual being, and even Captain America's remarkable virtue of justice (a very old and American view flying in the teeth of the current American view of war-on-terror) looks pretty until you realize that it is functioning in a godless vacuum, and has no foundation. Without a moral, supernatural being to put man in his proper place, man exists in a moral vacuum himself, and if pressed hard enough, cannot give an adequate explanation for his attempts at promoting morality over immorality. There can be no virtue or heroism within a humanist universe, and that is why I always feel dissatisfied with the superhero films when I turn my back on the flash and the bang and can see clearly again.there is no god
I am a big fan of the series "Avatar: the Last Airbender." For numerous reasons it is a lot of fun and I recommend it, but for the purpose of this post I want to focus on a single aspect of the story-arc. Certain humans within "Avatar" have the ability to control the four elements (air, water, earth, fire), and are essentially superheros with super-human powers. The show is very tongue-in-cheek and doesn't take itself too seriously, but I have noticed that within the (admittedly rather pantheistic) spirituality of "Avatar," there are souls, there are spirits, there is right, there is wrong, there is accountability, there is something supernatural above the supernatural "benders," and the benders are always considered human, but gifted (which prompts one to ask: from whom is the gift?). While "Avatar" is incorrect in its Eastern theophilosophy, it gets a fundamental foundation correct which the American superheros fail to do. In America, people with power over the elements are freaks, sub-human, and fated to be exploited as weapons. In "Avatar," people with power over the elements are considered closer to their true human potential, and they find a harmony with the world in which they live. Because there is Spirit dominating Man, and putting Man in his place, Man in his turn is able to adequately dominate Nature, and bends Nature to his will.
I think it's a very subtle aspect which is missing from the superhero stories, but I have always felt it missing and now I think I know what it is. All the stories ring hollow when the last grenade goes off, and in "Avatar," somehow, they don't dissipate. "Avatar's" benders come a little closer to the ideal Man, whose powers were forfeited and lost over the many generations between us and Adam, and the American superheros blunder about in a godless universe as walking miracles while simultaneously denying that miracles exist. You must have a supernatural being, or man is lost and without hope in the dark: everything he does will be morally without foundation and meaningless, his actions will ultimately be hollow and might as well be self-centred and self-advantageous.
This poor world is anxious for harmony and it is terrified of us now. I don't see anything more than flashy American ideals in the superheros, with chest-puffing and gun-slinging and rescuing old ladies' cats out of trees. But in things like "Avatar" there is a recognition of a higher order, accountability to that order, and an understanding that a man with any power is to bring harmony as well as subjection to nature. The universe is put in its proper hierarchical order.
what do you think about the super-human?